Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Families from Syria welcomed to Orkney

Families from Syria welcomed to Orkney
20 March 2017

Two families from war-torn Syria are starting to build a new life in Orkney.

The families, both with young children, were living in refugee camps in the Middle East after they were forced to leave their own homes during the Syrian conflict.

They were offered the chance to live in Kirkwall after the Home Office took up an offer from Orkney Islands Council to provide accommodation for two families caught up in the fighting – as part of a UK-wide resettlement programme.

The families are now settling into their new homes after arriving in the islands on Friday (March 17).

“This is a big step for the families and everyone involved is keen to make sure they experience a warm welcome as they start new lives in a community that is very different to their own,” said Frances Troup, the Council’s Head of Housing, Homelessness and School Care Accommodation.

“It helps greatly that this is such a welcoming community. There’s been a tremendous response from organisations and individuals – all committed to ensuring that the parents and their children soon feel at home in Orkney.”

More than 20 local people have volunteered to assist with this.

“Some are Arabic speakers, some have spent time themselves in the Middle East, and others simply want to extend a helping hand as the families settle in,” said Fraser Devine, Team Leader for Volunteering with Voluntary Action Orkney.

“The volunteers will be assisting in a number of ways – helping the families in getting to know Orkney, find their way around, and become part of our local community.”

Under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the Government has made a commitment to resettle 20,000 people from refugee camps in communities across the UK by 2020.

The scheme gives priority to people in greatest need, including those who have survived torture and violence, and women and children at risk. People often live in refugee camps for years and many children have lived their entire lives in such precarious circumstances.

Frances Troup added: “Refugees are often concerned that publicity about their new lives in the UK could put at risk family members still in Syria. We would ask that the families are not approached by the media or photographed as they go about their everyday lives – so that with help and support they can settle in to their new community.”

An Inter-Agency Syrian Resettlement Programme Working Group was formed last year by The Orkney Partnership, to ensure co-ordinated and effective resettlement plans are in place.

As part of this, a number of temporary posts have been created with funding support from the Home Office to provide initial support for the Syrian families. An interpreter and part time housing support officer will offer assistance and additional support will be given in schools.

UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said: “The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unprecedented, which is why we decided to undertake one of the largest resettlement schemes in the UK’s history.

“I am very grateful to the Local Authorities, community groups and individuals across Scotland who have helped to provide these vulnerable people with a safe environment and the chance to rebuild their lives.”

A web page provided by The Orkney Partnership has information on the Syrian Resettlement Programme, with contact details for people who might wish to offer help and assistance.

More than 200 Syrian refugees arrived at Glasgow Airport aboard a charter flight on Thursday (16 March).

The refugees were identified for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (the UNHCR) and are being cared for by a number of Local Authorities across Scotland, including Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Highlands, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, Orkney, Renfrewshire and South Ayrshire.

Hundreds of flights carrying Syrian refugees have arrived in the UK over the past 18 months. Over 5,500 refugees have been resettled in the UK under the scheme so far - around a fifth have been found homes in Scotland.